For parents and children, the warm summer months can usher in a happy break from routine. Vacations and sleeping-in can offer a much-needed respite from the structured school days.
But it’s also a time many find getting to church services a little tougher. While imparting daily Christian teachings to children is always important, many parents make an extra effort over the summer months.
For Justin Davidson, groups pastor at St. Simons Community Church, and his wife, Sarah, that is a priority. They strive to bring faith into the “real world” for their children — Toby, 8 and Abigail, 6 — each and every day. During the school year, however, there’s more consistency in the ways they work their faith into their schedule.
“An example is daily at breakfast, we all share what we are ‘hopeful for,’ and ‘thankful for’ as way to begin our day with a short devotion. This starts our day off with a heart of gratitude and we can know how we can pray for each other that day,” Sarah said.
“At dinner, we share what our ‘high and lows’ were for the day as another opportunity to check in and build our relationship as well as giving a chance to see how God has worked in our day.”
Summer changes up those routines a bit. That provides a bit of a challenge but also offers new opportunities for getting the message across.
“Summer is a unique season in our stage of life with kids at home. We have more opportunity to spend time together in a more flexible schedule and not the same time restraints when school is in session,” Sarah said. We have different intentionality in the summer for building relationship with our children in the everyday, and some of the extra trips we take together,” Sarah said.
During that time together, the Davidsons mindfully keep the focus on God. One of the ways they do this is by bringing Christ into daily conversations and activities.
“This can be speaking about the beauty that God has designed in our world, how God makes us each unique and different, how we treat others, giving thanks for what we have, adding value to one person each day, to challenging them to find a joyful perspective in a tough situation,” Sarah explained.
The Davidsons are currently focused on explaining why it is important to behave in a Christian manner. It helps their little ones to understand the faith-centric meaning behind one’s actions.
“For example, instead of just telling our children to be nice to each other or stop fighting, we talk about how we want to show God’s love to each other, or that because we are a child of God we are called to treat others with kindness and show them value and honor, as we are loved,” she said.
Alexandria Tipton agrees with this wholeheartedly. As the director of youth ministries at First United Methodist Church in Brunswick, she hopes to be a source for parents to turn to as they guide their children. She encourages all families to engage their church’s youth leaders as part of an overall religious education program.
“I am on the parents’ team. I am in their corner to help raise their kids in the church, to make sure they know of God’s love and what all that means, Tipton said. Any resources they need, I will find and get for them. I can be a person to talk to. As parents, we have to stick together but most importantly as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Engaging church leaders and other like-minded adults outside of the home can help show children that a faith-based life is a “cool” way to live. That can also extend to helping them connect with other youth outside of their congregation. Joining in community activities such as the Gathering Place’s weekly Main Event sessions brings children together for fun, contemporary services.
Tipton sees this event and other outreach opportunities as a great way to keep children engaged.
“The best thing about the summer is the fact that schedules do typically fall to the wayside. This allows more chances to get out and do something, whether that is a fun activity with your youth group, summer camp or a regular scheduled program that is offered during the school year,” she said.
“Find a mission trip for them to attend, get them that mountain top experience. It’s the perfect time of year to do it. Maybe do a family Bible study, it doesn’t have to be complicated.”